Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





October 26, 2000


trans-species organisms; Veganic - Organic without Meat;


I ask if anyone on this listserv can provide the following information,
particularly citations to scientific articles:

1. the name of any true-breeding trans-species crop or
animal and the two species crossed to create the trans-species produced by
human intervention through techniques other than recombinant DNA

For example, triticale is a cross between wheat and rye achieve by
human intervention using chemical mutagenesis; triticale is now a
true-breeding separate grain species. As I understand the facts, triticale
occurred rarely in nature but in nature triticale was sterile. My
understanding is plant scientists used chemical mutagenesis to change the
chromosomal number so that the wheat and rye could cross-breed and become
thereafter a new true-breeding species.
I believe that nectarines are another example (i.e. a cross between
plums and peaches) if plums and peaches are different species. I do not
know how nectarines were created. I think tangerines and tangelos may be
other examples.

By contrast, beefalo (cross between cattle and buffalo) is not a
trans-species animal because buffalo and cattle are the same species (if I
know my species classification correctly).

2. If anyone had a citation to a survey or scientific
review article that addressed the information requested in # 1 above, I
would find that to be the best possible response I could receive.

Thank you in advance for any information you may be able to provide
to me.


Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law

Subj: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Uninformation and the choice paradox: GM Food
Labeling Commentary by Alan McHughen
From: heather.massel@gov.ab.ca

Just a comment in response to Alan's informed and thoughtful article on
labelling. He makes an excellent case for why food labelling on GMOs won't
work. The only down side, and I'd be interested in someone's response to
this, is that the radicals would respond: "then let's ban any and all GMOs
from the marketplace to be on the safe side," which, as we have already
seen, has happened in the UK.

So, then, who communicates the value of GMOs and to which audiences?

(From Agnet Douglas A Powell )

October 26, 2000 The Record (Sherbrooke) p.11 Anna May Kinney

Kinney says we all know the basics behind organic gardening: no chemical
fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, but few of us have ever heard of
veganic gardening.

Kinney says this method has been catching on with vegetarians around the
world and while most organic gardeners willingly use such items as bone
meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and manure, many are now questioning the
safety of this practice.

Kinney says that since Walkerton, we learned that manure produced at
commercial livestock farms can seep into ground water and spread a deadly
form of E. coli bacteria. Because there are few rules regulating the
processing or sale of domestic manure, and the methods of processing (such
as heating or aging) vary, some people believe there may be an even
greater potential for contamination if consuming vegetables harvested out
of fields covered with unhealthy manure.

Veganic advocates believe that the basics of gardening, including
preparing and maintaining healthy soil; fertilizing plants with the right
combination of nutrients; and protecting crops from pests and disease can
all be accomplished without the use of animal byproducts.

Jim Oswald, the vegan co-founder of the Institute of Plant Based Nutrition
in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania was quoted as saying, ``The organic process
has become a legal, government-sanctioned dumping ground for waste
products from the slaughterhouse industry''. An organic farmer himself
since 1992 he says ``If they can't put it in a hot dog, they sell it to
farmers.'' Kinney goes on to say that the concept of compost dates back to
Sir Albert Howard, a British governor in India, who helped pioneer the
``Bangalore method'' of layering freshly cut green vegetation with brown
(dead leaves, etc.) to create an organic mix that is eaten by bacteria,
which in turn are consumed by protozoa that excrete nitrogen to create
nature's perfect plant food. Earthworms, who eat the protozoa, improve
soil by virtue of their waste as well as their natural aeration.

In regard to natural pest control, varganic gardeners say, let nature be
nature, make your garden a hospitable place for snakes, toads, birds and
other animals who normally feed on insects that can threaten your crops
and they will take care of the insect before they become a problem.


October 28, 2000 New Scientist


Frankenfoods are on the ropes but, according to this editorial, biotech is
due for a comeback

The editorial says that if you live in Europe it is easy to believe that
genetically modified crops are finished. Skilful media campaigns by
activist groups have made these "frankenfoods" about as popular as nuclear
power stations. Supermarkets and restaurants proudly announce themselves
"GM free" and protestors trample fields of test plantings of modified
crops with impunity. In North America too, despite earlier acceptance, a
backlash is under way.

With GM crops on the ropes, it seems a strange time to announce that they
could have a really bright long-term future. But if you read the signs,
honestly assess the world's future food needs, and look at the safer,
greener, genetically modified crops we could produce, then the conclusion
is, the editorial says, exactly that.
Future GM crops won't look the same as the first set of products, which
were designed to create colossal monocultures protected by massive use of
herbicides. And they might not appear at all unless scientists engage
vigorously in the debate over their future and governments listen to the
right advice.

One sign of a more positive future for GM crops comes this week in a
report from Britain's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment
(ACRE), a committee of 13 independent experts who advise the government on
the release and marketing of genetically modified organisms (see p 4). The
report focuses on ways that GM plants could be made safer. It lists
techniques that would greatly reduce the risks of, for example, pollen
from stands of modified crops spreading to other fields. Plants can be
engineered not to produce pollen at all, or to produce pollen that is
incompatible with other unmodified plants.

Even more important are techniques described in the report that are still
in development. Add to those the many other possibilities appearing as our
knowledge of plant genomes deepens and you have the potential for a quite
different GM revolution.
The genetically engineered crops that the world has come to hate were
created by introducing foreign genes that either boost herbicide
resistance or add protection from pests.

Much more subtle interventions now look possible. Among them are ways of
changing the regulation of the genes that plants already possess, to
create plants that have larger leaves, flower earlier, and produce deeper
roots or shorter stems. This may not sound like much, but the potential
benefits are huge. Larger leaves can shade out weeds. Small adjustments in
flowering time may make it easier to grow more than one crop a year.
Deeper roots combat drought. And shorter stems leave more energy to boost
seed harvests. These are the kinds of changes that conventional breeders
have been making for thousands of years. Knowledge of genes and their
control do the same—but much faster.

More dramatic changes might be possible by harnessing the extraordinary
powers of apomixis (see p 5). Many plants reproduce asexually, generating
seed but no pollen. By transferring suitable controlling genes to crop
plants, it should be possible to make them produce seeds that are
genetically identical to the parent. This would be a boon to farmers, as
it would allow them to gather seeds from their own crops and replant them
year after year. Currently, this cannot be sustained for long, as
top-quality genetic strains interbreed and gradually lose their vigour.
Apomixis could be great news for farmers who can't afford premium
commercial seeds. But wouldn't the power of apomixis run into opposition
from the big agricultural companies, who now sell seed to farmers every
year. Not necessarily. Apomixis has the potential to speed up the process
by which desirable characteristics are fixed, making it much easier to
create more seed varieties, each adapted to local conditions. That could
be a big help in poorer countries with small and diverse farming systems.
But it is only likely to happen if governments make sure that research on
apomixis is well supported, and the rights to use the techniques are
freely available. Which brings us back to the question: how can we make
sure that we get the kind of biotechnology we want? Scientists must join
in debate over what is best, rather than unquestioningly supporting
research projects set by their employers. And governments must seek out
the right scientific advice and have the courage to act on it.
Next week will see the publication of a vast government report on
Britain's BSE fiasco. We expect it to criticise the way the government
commissions and acts on scientific advice. With any luck, it's criticism
that will change the kinds of science that shape society.


October 23, 2000
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
http://www.environment.detr.gov.uk/acre/bestprac/consult/guidance/bp/index.h tm
Guidance on Best Practice in the Design of Genetically Modified Crops
Comments on this guidance note should be sent before 21 December 2000 to
The Secretary, ACRE Best Practice Sub-group, Floor 3/H11, Ashdown House,
London, SW1E 6DE.
Contents · Summary · Section 1: · Aims and Scope of this Guidance ·
Section 2: · The Philosophy of Best Practice in the Design of GM Crops ·
Section 3: · Best Practice Philosophy - in Practice · Section 4: ·
Enabling Technologies
alternative markers to antibiotic resistance genes removal of extraneous
strategies for control of flowering and fertility seed sterility
chloroplast transformation
gene excision systems to avoid unnecessary gene expression introns and
editing sequences
chemically inducible promoters
· Annex I: · Legal framework for decision making on the release and
marketing of GMOs in the European Union
· Annex II: · Glossary of terms used in this guidance Summary
Technologies are available to produce GM plants that contain only minimal
genetic modification. Insertion of the smallest quantities of DNA required
to obtain the desired trait will help to simplify risk assessment and
further reduce uncertainty. More challenging, although the technology is
under development, will be the integrated use of risk management traits to
biologically contain transgenes and their products and so avoid or
minimise environmental exposure. The reliability of these systems is
testable. These approaches, which include the regulation of processes such
as seed fertility and flowering to minimise pollen dispersal will need to
satisfy the requirements imposed by breeders, seed producers and
agricultural practice. Where novel technologies have been developed,
intellectual property rights may restrict access and have a large impact
on how widely they are employed.

American Council on Science and Health http://www.acsh.org/ Dr. Elizabeth
M. Whelan American Council on Science and Health

Arriving in Oxford, England last week on a brief visit, I was aware of the
current background of hostility toward genetically modified (GM) foods.
During a previous visit, Greenpeace activists, who distributed scary
literature about what they called "frankenfoods," accosted me at almost
every street corner, raising anxieties about GM food's alleged threat to
both public health and the environment.

But things seem to have further deteriorated. Each restaurant I entered
boasted on the menu that, for health reasons, they would never serve any
genetically modified foods. Even the bags of popcorn were solemnly stamped
"Free of GM food." This purported interest in promoting good public health
was particularly ironic given the density of cigarette smoke that filled
each and every restaurant and pub.

The ostensible reasons for rejection of GM food are twofold—both of them
without scientific basis.

First, opponents claim that these foods are harmful to health. In
actuality, governments and state and university scientists have more
carefully scrutinized the genetic engineering of crops and food than any
crop-breeding technology in the history of agriculture. Over the past 25
years, innumerable laboratory experiments have been conducted with
genetically modified organisms.

There have been many thousands of field experiments with modified plants
throughout the world. And there is absolutely no evidence that GM foods
will pose any unforeseen health hazards. Genetically modified food is not
different in basic fundamental characteristics from conventionally grown
food. Meticulous protocols are in place to ensure that allergens are not
introduced into food. Indeed, GM technology might be able to remove
allergens from food, yielding for example non-allergenic peanuts, dairy
products, cereal and seafood, among other common sources of food allergy.

Second, there is a fear that agricultural techniques based on genetic
engineering might disrupt the natural environment. For example, in l999 a
lab study found that monarch butterfly larvae suffered when forced to eat
pollen from genetically modified Bt corn. This raised concern in some
quarters because it was widely and incorrectly interpreted to mean that GM
crops were threatening nonpest insects, such as the monarch. Several
follow-up studies, however, showed the effect of GM pollen on nontarget
insects, including the monarch butterfly, to be negligible under "real
life" field conditions.
Why then, if there is no scientific basis to the gloom-and-doom health and
environmental scenarios, is GM food coming out the loser in the debate with

Greenpeace and other biotech opponents, at least in the United Kingdom?
The answer here appears to be that what fuels the anti-biotech sentiment,
at least among the movement's leadership, is not health and environmental
concerns, but political and ideological ones. Some say the British people
are overly fearful of any new technology, after the recent "mad cow"
disease scare. But when I asked one Oxford University graduate student if
her anti-biotech colleagues would accept a genetically modified,
beta-carotene and iron enriched "golden rice" that would improve the
health and nutrition of starving people around the world, her answer was:
"They would most likely want to know first who is making it, and how much
the manufacturers were profiting from it."

Such a response strongly suggests that the anti-biotech leaders might
accept such a GM food if no multinational corporation was profiting from
the sale—but that they would reject the food (and let people starve)
rather than to do business with large American profit-making institutions.
With this anti-corporate ideology energizing their efforts, they may use
the health and environmental scares— successfully—as red herrings to
foment concern among the general consumer population, but their true
motivation is largely political and covert.

In order to solve a problem, and make progress toward removing obstacles,
the terms and characteristics of the debate must be put in focus. If
indeed, as seems likely, the motivating force against biotechnology in
England is not based on health and environmental concerns, but ideological
ones, this fact must be made more widely known.

October 24, 2000 U.S. Newswire
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 /U.S. Newswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation - The
following was released today by NoMoreScares.com:

Anti-biotech activists are urging their followers to take advantage of
Halloween to spread fear about biotech foods, according to the health
scare watchdog Web site NoMoreScares.com.
"The anti-biotech activists at Genetically Engineered Food Alert (GEFA)
are using false and misleading information to scare consumers," said John
Carlisle of the National Center for Public Policy Research and

"The activists plan to exploit so-called "viral marketing" inducing
Internet users to pass on false and misleading "marketing" messages to
other Web sites and users, creating exponential growth in the message's
visibility and effect. In this case, the message is fear, not facts,"
added Carlisle. GEFA members include Center for Food Safety, Friends of
the Earth, Organic Consumers Association, National Environmental Trust,
Public Interest Research Group, Pesticide Action Network of North America,
and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

To coordinate efforts to generate media attention and public fear, GEFA
has hired Fenton Communications, a public relations and marketing firm
responsible for numerous false "scare" campaigns, including the
now-debunked Alar and silicone breast implant scares. Fenton memos boast
of their success in generating income for their clients based on these
fear campaigns. In a "tip sheet" on viral marketing, GEFA instructs by
example: "We've all probably seen the email that promises a $5 gift
certificate from the Gap if we just pass the word along to 10 of our
friends,. It's utterly false, but they all do it anyway. Yet many advocacy
groups have a difficult time even getting their membership to forward an
action alert to one person." GEFA's suggested Halloween Alert reads,
"Trick or treat? This Halloween, some of the spookiest stuff out there
won't be found in cemeteries or haunted houses. No, this Halloween, we
should all be looking for the freaky foods on our grocery shelves.... Many
parents will... not let their children eat the candy they collect while
trick or treating... Yet many will unknowingly serve their children with
food that could be just as dangerous." "It's clear that anti-biotech
activists will say and do anything to achieve their Dubious goals," said
Steven Milloy of NoMoreScares.com who cited two recent examples. GEFA
members placed last October a full-page advertisement in the New York
Times titled "Who Plays God in the 21st Century." The ad featured a
picture of mouse with what looked like a human ear attached to its back.
The ad's caption read, "This is an actual photo of a genetically
engineered mouse with a human ear on its back." The ad railed against
genetic engineering. But the picture had nothing to do with genetic
engineering. A mold in the shape of a human ear was seeded with human
cartilage cells and then surgically implanted on the back of the mouse.
The cartilage cells grew into the shape of a human ear. Such "tissue
engineering" may reduce the risk of transplant rejection for children who
either were born without ears or lost them in accidents.

The second example is on GEFA's web site. GEFA says "genetic engineering
can create dangerous new toxics... In 1989, a genetically engineered
dietary supplement, L-tryptophan, was released to the public. Thirty seven
Americans died, 1,500 were disabled permanently, and 5,000 became sick
when the supplement produced a toxic contaminant in their bodies." But
there is no evidence that genetic engineering was to blame, according to
testimony from the Food and Drug Administration and Mayo Clinic. The
problem is thought to have stemmed from product contamination introduced
via a breakdown of the manufacturers' purification process. GEFA
apparently wants its followers to spread false and fear-mongering messages
to the public. Similar false Internet scare campaigns have involved
allegations of an artificial sweetener linked with multiple sclerosis,
shampoo and antiperspirants causing cancer, nonorganic cotton underwear
causing Gonorrhea, and tampons containing dioxin and asbestos. This
Halloween, in addition to their Internet "viral marketing" efforts,
biotech food scare campaigners plan to stage events at local supermarkets
from coast to coast to frighten parents and children preparing their trick
or treat festivities with false and misleading messages about "freaky
foods" made from fish, chicken or insect genes. The fact that no such
foods exist in any supermarket anywhere in the world is irrelevant to
these special interest activists.

"It looks like this Halloween, consumers will have to watch out for scary
e-mails, supermarket ambushes, as well as ghosts and goblins," said
Milloy. For more information contact Steven Milloy, NoMoreScares.com,
milloy(At)cais.com, 202-467-8586